Winter Challenges in the Carolinas

Rhonda Garrison,
Southern Farm Network

“The last two weeks in the Carolinas have been challenging to say the least. The winter’s excessive rains turned frozen, and North and South Carolina have had three major snow and ice events in the last two weeks,” reports Rhonda Garrison (Southern Farm Network, Raleigh, NC). “Winter wheat was already struggling under the season’s excessive moisture, and cool temperatures are postponing the crop breaking dormancy.” She adds, “Many crops have a pink tinge due to micronutrient deficiency. The nutrients are there, but the plants aren’t able to absorb them due to the saturated soils.” Many producers planted winter wheat simply as a cover crop, with the thinking that they’d manage it if prices recovered to make it profitable, she explained, but many won’t have that choice now. 

“The strawberry crop is also in peril, and with last week’s overnight lows near 0 degrees, freeze damage to the dormant crowns was a given. Many feel the plants will outgrow the damage at this point since they have yet to break dormancy. However, bramble crop growers and peach growers didn’t object to the cold weather, as it insured the required number of chilling hours for a good crop come spring and summer,” she said.  Those chilling hours have been a challenge the past couple of winters. Rows of blueberry bushes (Pictured below on February 26, used with permission from Vollmer Farms, Bunn, NC). Rhonda said gardenias in her home landscape were weighed down with last week’s snowfall, which was about six inches. That brought many trees down, and thousands of homes were left without power. 

Freeze damage to dormant
strawberry crowns.

Rows of blueberry bushes under snow. Picture taken February 26 with
permission from Vollmer Farms, Bunn, NC